OLYMPIA –Lawmakers were urged to work together to improve public schools, mental health programs and to pay for last year’s emergencies, and think of the state as a whole, not just the booming Puget Sound.
Both chambers of the Legislature opened with the usual ceremonies that included uniformed state troopers or military cadets escorting in the state and U.S. flags, and in the House, a high school choir singing the Star Spangled Banner.
After recounting a series of major accomplishments on health care, school funding and transportation in last year’s thrice-extended session, House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said lawmakers do not have an excuse to sit back in 2016.
“We need to keep moving forward,” Chopp said. It must reform the way teachers are paid, build more classrooms for the small classes required by law, bring mental health programs on par with medical health programs, and tackle homelessness, particularly among children and teens. It should also tap the state’s Rainy Day Fund to pay for the effects of last year’s wildfires and drought.
House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, told members to concentrate on what unites them rather than what divides them. The party split in the House is the closest in 14 years, at 50 Democrats and 48 Republicans
“The people are expecting us to come here and govern, together,” Kristiansen told the House.
While Seattle and nearby areas are experiencing a boom “it sucks for the rest of the state,” he said. “Washington isn’t just a 10-mile corridor. We’ve got to do better in the rest of the state.”
All this should be done in the allotted 60 days for a session with just a supplemental budget, and no overtime, both said.
“If the Seahawks could win yesterday, we can get done in 60 days,” Chopp said.